“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one” - A.J. Liebling
My father Bob Wilson took this to heart, and bought one and started his own newspaper, the Prairie Post of Maroa, Illinois in 1958, and ran it until he died in 1972. It never had a circulation of more than 2500 or so, but every week, he would fire off editorials at everyone and everything from local events to the actions of the nations of the world.
He may have been a Quaker peace activist in a Republican district, but his love and support of the farming communities garnered him enough respect that he eventually ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1962, though he lost. (He might have tried again, had he not died of an accident while only 49.) Many of his views ring true today. And he might have been willing to change the ones that fell behind the times. Although raised in the casual racism of the 1920s and 1930s, at the age of 15 he took stock of what he was being taught and discarded much of it as being wrong, and lived his life with respect for all.
I decided to transcribe his old editorials (I may make a book for some of my relatives) and every once in a while I will repost one here, as a view of how the world has changed wildly, or remained stubbornly the same.
April 20, 1961
LET'S KEEP CLEAR!
We most sincerely hope the invasion force landing in Cuba is not carrying American weapons, American money, and American instructions.
The history of American military adventures in Latin America is so long that this picture comes automatically to mind for the Latins themselves.
Guatemala was only the latest instance in which we have armed and financed revolutions in these little countries.
The is the work of our Chief Spy and Global Busybody, Allen Dulles. Dulles, brother of the late Secretary of State, as head of the Central Intelligence Agency commands almost unlimited funds for which he is accountable to no one but the President. Allen Dulles wages wars and buys and sells governments without the knowledge of the Congress, which gives him a blank check on the Treasury for his cloak-and-dagger work.
The secret airfield in Guatemala where the invasion army was reportedly trained, is regarded by Latins as an American base. Articles in American magazines have admitted that American planes and American military instructors were indeed present in Guatemala.
We most sincerely hope that we are not involved in this invasion of Cuba. Castro still controls the fanatical loyalty of the bulk of his people. Instead of collapsing as Batiste did, Castro will put up a determined resistance. We predict that the first thing the invasion force will do when they run into trouble is to scream for the United States Marines to come and help them out.
Cuba could become a real bloodbath. We feel that someone has badly misjudged the temper of the Cuban people, and we hope that America is not committed to the success of this adventures.
May 4, 1961
KENNEDY SI, DULLES NO!
The mechanics of putting a weekly newspaper together leave little possibility for hot news “scoops.”
Two weeks ago we discussed Cuba. The editorial was written Monday morning, while the invasion raged and optimistic reports flourished.
Our final paragraphs were as follows: WE MOST SINCERELY HOPE THAT WE ARE NOT INVOLVED IN THIS INVASION OF CUBA. CASTRO STILL CONTROLS THE FANATICAL LOYALTY OF THE BULK OF HIS PEOPLE. INSTEAD OF COLLAPSING AS BATISTE DID, CASTRO WILL PUT UP A DETERMINED RESISTANCE. WE PREDICT THAT THE FIRST THING THE INVASION FORCE WILL DO WHEN THEY RUN INTO TROUBLE IS TO SCREAM FOR THE UNITED STATES MARINES TO COME HELP THEM OUT.
CUBA COULD BECOME A REAL BLOODBATH. WE FEEL THAT SOMEONE HAS BADLY MISJUDGED THE TEMPER OF THE CUBAN PEOPLE, AND WE HOPE THAT AMERICA IS NOT COMMITTED TO THE SUCCESS OF THIS ADVENTURE.
On Tuesday it was set into type, Wednesday the paper was laid out, Thursday it was printed and Friday morning you received it in the mail.
By then, it had all come true. So sudden was the disaster, that by the time we got our predictions printed and into your hands, they were no longer predictions but a mere report on current events.
Our views on Cuba appeared a full eighteen months earlier, on November 19, 1959. The editorial, entitled “A Dose of Castro Oil”, pointed out that American newspaper and government attitudes underwent a sudden change when the “Bearded Beatnik” seized the American oil companies. “As of that instant”, we wrote, “He was in trouble. The oil companies pushed the button, and alarm bells went off in Washington.”
Eighteen months ago, we also discussed the “Armies in exile” reportedly arising to unseat Fidel Castro. (It is of course understood that these counter-revolutionaries agree to restore all American properties to their owners, in return for the surplus army material we give them) These “armies”, we wrote, “are figments of the imagination. Good or bad, Castro is Cuba's national hero, and is not to be unseated by the paltry few millions it costs us to change prime ministers in small Middle Eastern countries!”
After the piece appeared, we received a letter from a professor who had just returned from half-a-lifetime of residence in Cuba. He commended us on our presentation of the true facts. We have never visited Cuba. Our views are based upon the exercise of logic on information which is available to everyone.
Even from this distance, the facts were plain a year and a half ago. How could Allen Dulles and the Central Intelligence Agency claim that Cuba was ready to revolt against Castro the moment a boatload of exiles touched shore? How could he have deluded Eisenhower, Nixon, Kennedy, and the entire General Staff into believing this? The answer lies in the unlimited money and power given this one man in the name of “security.”
Our C.I.A. built an airstrip and a training camp for Cuban exiles behind barbed wire fences at Retalhuleu in Guatemala. Bombers appeared from “somewhere” and bombed Cuba's airfields. Our official statement was that defecting Cuban pilots had stolen the planes and bombed their own fields. We blush at this obvious invention.
Our big newspapers and magazines are now screaming constantly about “The Cuban dictator.” Our State Department cannot be said to be disenchanted with dictators, as they have tolerated, decorated, and financed other such dictators as Chiang Kai-Shek, Franco, Somoza, Perez Jimenez, Syngman Rhee, and Menderes. We do not appear to have anything against dictators, so long as they are on our side!
Then came Mr. Dulles' master stroke, calculated to inflame the nation against Cubs. It was announced that A PLOT HAD BEEN UNCOVERED TO KIDNAP 3-YEAR-OLD CAROLINE KENNEDY, THE PRESIDENT'S DAUGHTER!
Hardened newspaper correspondents nearly gagged at reporting this supposed threat to their readers. A plot of this kind is never publicized in this way; it is met with increased vigilance and counter measures. Later reports disclosed that no arrests had been made, as the whole thing was based on some “loose talk.” Crackpot threats come to any President any week of the year; there was a reason for blowing this incident up out of proportion.
Our sources indicate that President Kennedy was almost as angry at this clumsy misuse of his family's popularity as he was at the wildly inaccurate intelligence reports on Cuba. We predict that as a direct consequence, Spymaster Allen Dulles will be relieved of his major responsibilities within one month, and “permitted to resign” with six months. His loyalty and his anti-Communism are beyond question; but in such a position, stupidity is optional.
John F. Kennedy has received – and accepted – criticism for permitting to take place an adventure that was conceived and ripened under a previous administration. Too few people recognize that he has maintained our technical neutrality by giving the insurgents supplies and moral support, but using no American military force in support of the action. We have dropped no bombs and fired no shots upon the Cubans.
Cuba has historically changed governments by revolution, and we have given aid and comfort to several of them including Castro's own and that of the revered Jose Marti in 1895.
It is worthy of note that the first issue of the historic ATLANTA ARGUS, published ninety-four years ago, contained a long description of a Cuban revolution then in progress.
We say that President Kennedy has kept his head and made the best of a bad situation. No-one questions that our forces could reduce Havana to rubble within thirty minutes after he gave the order; and Mr. Kruschev, for all his bellowing, could not and would not strike a blow in Castro's defense.
Kennedy – and the administration – see further than insults to American prestige, or the seizure of American refineries. A world in ferment looks to us to see whether we are on the side of the little people, or against them. A victory of arms against tiny Cuba could do us irreparable harm in Africa and Asia.
We cannot with one hand sell ourselves as the friend of oppressed, hungry and illiterate peoples... and with the other support Allen Dulles and his little cloak-and-dagger revolutions to save the American sugar plantations, gambling casinos, and oil refineries.
We believe that President Kennedy will hold a steady rudder through storms at home and abroad, toward the triumph of reason in some final solution of the Cuban problem.